University Of Tasmania
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Investigation into English grammar proficiency of teachers of English language

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:01 authored by MacFarlane, G
There have been many studies that have supported the teaching of grammar and many that have not, mainly because grammar teaching did not seem to have a marked improvement on students' writing. In English speaking countries, traditional grammar ceased to be taught in the late 1960s after the Dartmouth Conference of 1966, which proved to be a catalyst for change in government policy in those countries. As a consequence, grammar has been taught in a progressively attenuated manner since that time. Australia has now inaugurated a national curriculum requiring teachers to teach grammar. The question is whether, after almost 50 years of this situation, teachers are equipped to fulfil this requirement. As this policy has been instrumental in the preparation of teachers in different educational sectors (in domestic school settings and in international English teaching settings), this study was conducted with a group of teachers in an English language teaching centre attached to an Australian university, providing tuition for international students intending to pursue tertiary studies through the medium of English language. The aim of this study was to discover whether teachers of English at the language teaching centre experience difficulties in their own understanding of English traditional grammar, and, if so, which aspects of grammar cause them particular difficulty. Those grammar items identified as problematic would be included in a professional development program specifically devised for teachers at that centre. Teachers' views on the importance of grammar were also canvassed. The study was conducted as an action research project, employing a mixed method approach with collection of both quantitative and qualitative data. The study was carried out in three distinct phases. This study was a sequential one, with each phase analysed before the next phase began, and with each phase informing the subsequent one. Instruments used in the three phases were (i) inventories; (ii) surveys; and (iii) semi-structured interviews. The study had five major findings, the first and most important of which was that many of the respondents showed a lack of understanding of certain aspects of grammar. There was also some evidence regarding lack of confidence in this area. Teaching grammar in context was the most preferred method among the respondents. The findings fulfilled the study objectives which included gaining teacher views on the significance and importance of grammar knowledge in TESOL teaching; discovering any gaps in the respondents' grammar knowledge; and devising a professional development program in grammar specifically tailored to their needs. Some of the implications resulting from this study are that: (i) universities should take a more visible and concerted lead in teaching grammar to student teachers to better prepare them for (a) teaching grammar in domestic schools to fulfil the aspirations of the new Australian Curriculum; and (b) teaching grammar to international students, who expect their teachers to impart sound grammar knowledge to them; (ii) all teaching institutions (both schools for domestic students and English teaching centres for international students at tertiary level) should provide professional development in grammar for current teachers.


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